With the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., last week, the name Marjory Stoneman Douglas has entered the grim lexicon of mass killings.
But just who was Douglas? Long before her namesake would be associated with tragedy, she gained fame as a crusading journalist, author, women’s suffrage advocate, and conservationist. Most notably, she was a passionate steward of the Everglades, 1.5 million acres of fragile wetlands at the southern tip of Florida.
Here are six things to know about Marjory Stoneman Douglas.
■ She was born in Minneapolis in 1890. Her father founded the paper that became the Miami Herald and her mother was a concert violinist. Douglas was a straight-A student at Wellesley College, where the class of 1912 elected her “class orator.’’
In addition to graduating from Wellesley, Douglas had other ties to New England. After her parents separated, she and her mother moved to Taunton, where her mother had family. Douglas also worked in a Boston department store.
■ In 1915, she became a reporter for the Miami Herald, where she began to learn of the problems associated with rapid development in South Florida. At the time, many believed that wetlands were useless swamps that should be drained and cleared for farming and housing.
■ Her 1947 best-seller, “The Everglades: River of Grass,’’ was a plea to preserve the delicate ecosystem. “There are no other Everglades in the world,” Douglas wrote. “They are, they have always been, one of the unique regions of the earth; remote, never wholly known. Nothing anywhere else is like them.’’ Her impact on US wetlands policy has been likened to that of Rachel Carson’s book “Silent Spring,” on the harmful effects of pesticides.
■ In her later years, Douglas, who was known to sport a straw hat, large glasses, and a string of pearls, embraced other causes. She was a charter member of the first American Civil Liberties Union chapter in the South and supported efforts to protect migrant farm workers.
■ Well into her second century, she remained active — and cantankerous: she was known to admonish reporters for asking stupid questions. In 1993, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. She later donated the medal to Wellesley College. Douglas died in 1998, at age 108, in the English-style cottage she had built in Miami’s Coconut Grove neighborhood in 1926.
The Associated Press
Source: The Boston Globe
By Roy Greene – February 20, 2018